Any Scottish constitution should liberate us, not enslave us

Any Scottish constitution should liberate us, not enslave us

by Neil Craig
article from Friday 23, May, 2014

I HAVE written on ThinkScotland before about the purpose of constitutions. I incline to the view that a constitution is necessary primarily to say what the limits on government power are. As Heinlein put it:

"Like fire & fusion, government is a dangerous servant and a terrible master. You now have freedom - if you can keep it. But do remember that you can lose this freedom more quickly to yourselves than to any other tyrant. Move slowly, be hesitant, puzzle out the consequences of every word. I would not be unhappy if this convention sat for ten years before reporting - but I would be frightened if you took less than a year....

But in writing your constitution let me invite attention to the wonderful virtues of the negative! Accentuate the negative" Let your document be studded with things the government is forever forbidden to do."

The SNP and the Scottish political establishment seem to consider the opposite. That a constitution should exist to give the power to the state and indeed duty to do ever more, and to remove the possibility of us objecting. This is the precise opposite of the principles on which Anglo-Saxon politics have worked since at least Magna Carta. 

This is what the SNP White Paper promises:

European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), would be embedded in the written constitution.

Beyond those there are certain provisions that the present Scottish Government will propose for consideration by the constitutional convention:

 ■ equality of opportunity and entitlement to live free  of discrimination and prejudice;

 ■ entitlement to public services and to a standard of living that, as a minimum, secures dignity and self-respect and provides the opportunity for people to realise their full potential both as individuals and as members of wider society;

 ■ protection of the environment and the sustainable use of Scotland’s natural resources to embed Scotland’s commitment to sustainable development and tackling climate change;

 ■ a ban on nuclear weapons being based in Scotland;

 ■ controls on the use of military force and a role for an independent Scottish Parliament in approving and monitoring its use;

 ■ the existence and status of local government;

 ■ rights in relation to healthcare, welfare and pensions;

 ■ children’s rights; and,

 ■ rights concerning other social and economic matters,  such as the right to education and a Youth Guarantee on employment, education or training.

Now most of those sound nice, except the ECHR of which we have actual experience and know how it means enforced votes for prisoners and interpretations of words that are both unusual and have extended government control of ordinary people, usually in the false name of "minority rights".

Let’s look at what the SNP proposals mean, and sometimes what they could well mean if interpreted enthusiastically by a European court that works as it has.

 ■ Equality sounds good but it means the state has a constitutional duty to interfere in our lives any time somebody complains. Does that mean people being sued if results don't produce the "right" number of women or minorities - it does in the USA where their Constitution has been "reinterpreted" to find such a right even though it isn't written.

 ■ This is even worse. What income, lower than the national average ensures "self-respect"?  In which case this is gives the state a right and duty to ensure absolute income equality – not even Mao managed that.

 ■ This makes the catastrophic global warming lie and the SNP's promise of "100% renewable by 2020" the rigorously enforced, unshakable law. To call this economic suicide is greatly understating the matter.

 ■ I'm a bit agnostic about a separate Scotland having nuclear weapons so not to worried about this "leftist" shibboleth.

 ■ Any independent state has this in some form. This is just a token blow against NATO. A separate Scotland would be silly to go to war with anybody anyway.

 ■ Local government will "exist”, what does that mean or guarantee?

 ■ If the Scots £ fails to keep parity with the UK one, these rights would become impossible to maintain at parity with UK values. That would mean Holyrood would have no lawful alternative to increasing taxes or printing money. Both are obviously economic suicide but any lawful alternative is excluded.

 ■ Current practice suggests this means the "every kid has a social worker with power over them" legislation and probably an extension of it. Scotland already has twice as many kids per capita in council "care" - the results of which consistently mean that when they grow up they are at the wrong end of any measure of human failure. "Children's rights" in this instance do not mean any rights for children but merely the right of social workers to build bureaucratic empires on their bodies.

 ■ A catch-all. Everything will be forbidden except where it is mandatory and subsidised.

I am afraid the statists have stolen a considerable march on this issue. ALL the discussion I have seen of constitutions has been by "leftists" within the political elite. This is a flat repudiation of the entire liberal Enlightenment tradition of Smith, Hume, Ferguson et al that was once, correctly, the glory of and much of the reason for the success of Scotland.

Even if we vote No we may expect these to be raised as part of the "new powers" that Westminster has shown some inclination to give. That would be new powers purely for those in charge not for ordinary people, no matter how it is portrayed.

The paper is also imprecise about how this constitution would be set up. "One of the first and most fundamental tasks of the parliament will be to establish the process for preparing Scotland's first written constitution".  Others may be included but, certainly as long as one party has majority, I assume it will be limited to those and such as those. As a member of UKIP (the street fascist attack on us having been publicly supported by Salmond and having been 100% censored by the BBC state owned  broadcaster from speaking in the referendum "debate") I am not anticipating even being asked what sort of constitution I would like. Not even if, as polling on the EU election suggests possible, UKIP gains an MEP.

Presumably between the independence vote and the adoption of the constitution Holyrood would vote through some Articles of Association (as the USA did) that would turn out to reflect what the SNP want anyway. The example there is Blair's evisceration of the Lords on the promise it was only provisional till they worked out how to create an effective second chamber – for which we are still waiting.

Noticeably absent from the Scotland's Future guide is any mention of us getting a referendum on our constitution. That looks like a stitch up. This is the same political class that boasts that after our pseudo-independence, Scots people will not be subjected to the worry of a referendum on our membership of the EU as the poor benighted English will.

Free market proponents of separation generally say that after it happened Scotland would be forced into the real world. The lunacies of our current leaders would not be maintained. That without the safety net of Westminster the Scottish people would vote, sharply, for the sort of traditional liberalism that is working worldwide. The problem is that constitutions are designed to keep particular values in place.

To remove the duty of ensuring we have the world's most expensive electricity and highest taxes would require junking the brand new document – probably requiring at least a 2/3rd’s majority and a lot of time. Meanwhile we would be stuck with an economy with all the freedom, charm and success of North Korea.

Perhaps I should join the "debate" and say what sort of constitution I would go for to maximise freedom and growth. Any bets that I could come up with a constitution limiting government interference and maximising freedom and economic growth that would both represent "traditional Scottish values" (going back to the Enlightenment) rather better than windmill subsidies do, and would, after any genuine uncensored "debate" would get more voting support from the Scottish people than the SNP's selection of collectivist shibboleths would.


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